Last April the Chinese staged a truly massive naval parade in the South China Sea to mark the 69th anniversary of their modern navy, and to showcase their new naval strength.
Having showed off their strength sufficiently last year they are now going for a much friendlier and conciliatory vibe. They will still hold a naval parade, but other countries are invited to attend and to participate with their own warships.
The invitation was extended even to rivals such South Korea, Japan and the US itself. 60 other countries will send high-ranking delegations, and South Korea and Japan are even expected to show up with a naval vessel or two of their own.
The Pentagon meanwhile has snubbed the invitation and will stay at home. The US will be represented by the lowly defense attache from the Beijing Embassy alone.
The Americans are at least consistent. Seeing how they keep leaving their distant shores to sail through China-claimed waters in “Freedom of Navigation” voyages it would have been indeed somewhat awkward to now suddenly accept Chinese hospitality.
On the other hand the idea that this is somehow a setback for the Chinese is bemusing:
But the U.S. snub, apparently made out of concerns that China could have used the presence of American warships to bolster its international standing, is expected to put a damper on any propaganda victory by Beijing.
The Chinese just as likely merely sent out an invitation to the Americans just to be polite. It’s unlikely they care one way or the other. Besides, Japan and South Korea attending while the US stays at home doesn’t make for bad optics for China at all:
As for the anniversary decision impacting the decisions by Tokyo and Seoul to participate, Zhang said it was unlikely that the two would pull out.
“Japan has actually improved relations with China in substantial ways,” he said, noting the ongoing thaw between the two Asian giants under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
“Its foreign policies, under Abe and in the context of Tokyo’s concerns for Trump’s trade policies and alliance politics, have become more independent,” he said.
South Korea, with liberal President Moon Jae-in, also “wants good relations with Beijing,” he said.
“So I expect both will send warships to the event.”
What it shows is that the local pro-US powers feel it isn’t in their interest to snub China when it reaches out, even when the US would prefer them to.